King Kenny so proud of his dou­ble he­roes

DOU­BLE DE­LIGHT FOR LI­LY­WHITES

The Argus - - SPORT - JAMES ROGERS

DUN­DALK man­ager Stephen Kenny ad­mit­ted the fear of driv­ing back down the M1 for a third year run­ning with­out the FAI Cup drove his side to vic­tory on Sun­day.

Pa­trick McEleney’s 73rd minute header en­sured the Li­ly­whites won their sec­ond dou­ble in four sea­sons fol­low­ing a 2-1 win over Cork City at the Aviva.

Af­ter de­feats to John Caulfield’s side in the 2016 and 2017 de­ciders, Kenny’s emo­tion at the full­time whis­tle told you ex­actly what it meant to him.

‘To win the dou­ble like that hav­ing lost it last sea­son in the man­ner we did, it was a eu­phoric feel­ing,’ he said.

‘The league is the real tes­ta­ment of a great team, but there is some­thing about a cup fi­nal which is very eu­phoric in that in­stance, it was very spe­cial.

‘We didn’t want to face go­ing back to Dun­dalk tonight with­out it. There was a real de­ter­mi­na­tion not to let that hap­pen. Prepa­ra­tions this year were bet­ter over­all and we’re de­lighted to win it.

‘It would have been dif­fi­cult to face go­ing up the road with­out it to be hon­est. I couldn’t even bear think­ing about it. It’s our sec­ond dou­ble and we should re­ally have three dou­bles I feel. It was im­por­tant to do that to­day. To be fair to Cork, we were never com­fort­able in the game at all.’

Kenny ad­mit­ted that the Rebels made life dif­fi­cult for his side but he felt they de­served their win in the end.

‘Cork’s game plan worked to a de­gree in the first half and we found space at a pre­mium and it was dif­fi­cult to play through the mid­field but def­i­nitely in the sec­ond half we were much bet­ter and we de­served to win in the end.

‘Cork are a very ex­pe­ri­enced team. They’ve a lot of very strong char­ac­ters and they don’t give you an inch. They’ve good play­ers and you’ve got to rise above that. The play­ers with great in­di­vid­ual tal­ent, you’re look­ing for them to come to the fore and thank­fully they did.’

Hav­ing taken a 19th minute lead through Sean Hoare, Cork were gifted an equaliser just two min­utes later when Kieran Sadlier con­verted a penalty af­ter Hoare had fouled Karl Shep­pard. Kenny said it was some­thing that shouldn’t have hap­pened.

‘It’s a car­di­nal sin. It’s one that we never do. We un­der­stand, we speak about it a lot. We prob­a­bly don’t con­cede that in Oriel Park.

‘Some of the play­ers cel­e­brated with mem­bers of their fam­ily which they wouldn’t nor­mally do. We switched off and we got pun­ished.’

De­spite that set­back, the man­ager said he felt his side im­proved in the sec­ond half with Pa­trick McEleney grab­bing a 73rd minute win­ner.

‘Cork had a lot of play­ers in that area in the first half so it was dif­fi­cult to find space but Pa­trick opened up in the sec­ond half and was very in­flu­en­tial.

‘He just timed his run. He’s not noted for his head­ing abil­ity but it was a great cross from Sean Gannon and a great fin­ish.

‘It was a great day and bril­liant to win it in the man­ner that we did. The play­ers have been bril­liant all sea­son and I’m re­ally, re­ally proud of them to­day hav­ing shown their per­sis­tence to keep be­liev­ing they could win it. To come back and win it with that late goal was great.’

On his emo­tion at the end, Kenny said: ‘It’s an in­cred­i­ble feel­ing. It’s a great to ex­pe­ri­ence it. I feel so priv­i­leged to ex­pe­ri­ence that feel­ing. To go and work for the year, to be in the fi­nal and to score a late win­ner, the pas­sion and the con­nec­tion with the play­ers and sup­port is amaz­ing.’

Pushed on his fu­ture plans, Kenny said he just wanted to en­joy this suc­cess for now.

‘We’ll en­joy this. The play­ers, wives and part­ners are stay­ing in the Bal­ly­mas­can­lon. It would be a som­bre place had we not gone back with this, even though we won the league. There is a big event or­gan­ised by the coun­cil in the square in Dun­dalk, the dan­ger with that, if we didn’t win it, it would have been a damp squib. It will be elec­tric to­mor­row night.

‘The whole re­gion emp­tied out. Peo­ple won­dered would there be fa­tigue but the sup­port­ers have come up and lost two. I was talk­ing to one girl yes­ter­day and she was say­ing I’m go­ing the fi­nal but go­ing back on the train last year was ter­ri­ble. To have the level of sup­port we have, con­sid­er­ing the pop­u­la­tion, is amaz­ing.

‘We’ve won and lost here. When you lose, it’s a lonely place. To win it, to play well, push­ing and un­lock­ing the door, the eu­phoric na­ture of win­ning like that is re­ally spe­cial. The play­ers de­serve huge credit.’

Kenny also dis­missed John Caulfield’s pre-match sug­ges­tion that Dun­dalk were sign­ing play­ers they didn’t need fol­low­ing their US in­vest­ment.

‘We’ve built a team here with young Ir­ish play­ers. I don’t like the nar­ra­tive, it’s not right, it’s not true. We built a team of young Ir­ish play­ers not from the top teams and just be­cause we’ve US in­vest­ment, that’s ir­rel­e­vant re­ally, it could be help­ful mov­ing for­ward. I think it might help us re­tain our bet­ter play­ers where in the past we’ve lost them.

‘I think we’ve earned the right, more than earned the right, it’s still all the play­ers who have come from teams in the lower half of the ta­ble. When you an­a­lyse it prop­erly, it’s such an easy thing to say or write. I didn’t see much truth in that. It’s of­ten an easy tar­get.

‘There could be a lot of clubs that could be good next year. A lot can change in a year, the story of Dun­dalk tells you that. I wouldn’t be con­fi­dent of any­thing bar try­ing to be bet­ter, hope­fully try­ing to go and win stuff again. It’s naïve to think we can be com­fort­able, I don’t think like that. I’ve enough ex­pe­ri­ences in my life not to think about that.’

Mean­while, the club’s op­po­si­tion an­a­lyst Ruaidhrí Hig­gins is ex­pected to depart Oriel Park to take up the as­sis­tant man­ager role with his na­tive Derry City, with De­clan Devine as man­ager. Pic­tures: Sportsfile

Stephen Kenny re­joices at the fi­nal whis­tle as Dun­dalk de­feat Cork in the FAI Cup fi­nal to com­plete a fa­mous dou­ble. In­set, Kenny and as­sis­tant man­ager Vinny Perth em­brace af­ter the game.

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